Niger Delta And Modular Refineries

Niger Delta And Modular Refineries

FOR many years, the Federal Government has been searching for ways to ensure enduring peace in the crisis-torn Niger Delta region. The question of how to put the restive youths into useful economic activities and minimise the incidence of oil pipelines vandalism remains an open-ended one. The latest plan by the government to convert illegal refineries in the region into modular refineries is a good step forward in the effort to check restiveness in the area. It could also help to meet some of Nigeria’s energy needs and improve revenue generation.

We support the government’s proposal to convert the illegal refineries in the region into modular ones. The idea, according to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo, is part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s new vision for the Niger Delta region.                                          

The plan, which is still going through presidential vetting processes, will make some of the illegal refineries and the local communities, active participants and stakeholders in the refining of fuel using modular refineries.  Under the arrangement, government intends to supply crude oil to the local refineries at reasonably concessional prices as an incentive to stop the current illegal breaking of pipelines and stealing of crude oil. The plan is also part of government’s solution to the environmental degradation of the region. It is one of the outcomes of the recent visit of the Vice President to Rivers State in the Niger Delta region.                                                

We call for the plan to be fast-tracked. It is one of the outside-the-box strategies many stakeholders have been advocating to boost peace efforts in the Niger Delta. The concept of modular refinery as a compact, smaller and easily transportable facility, as opposed to the more elaborate, complicated refineries, will discourage the proliferation of illegal refineries in the region.                                                    

In addition to making the local communities stakeholders in the modular refineries and minimising crude theft, the facilities will also improve the profitability of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) refining operations and enhance the local manpower training objective of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).

It is cheering that the NNPC has defended government’s proposal to transform the illegal refineries into legal entities for the proper integration of the youths in the Niger Delta. According to the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, getting the youths to form consortia of modular refineries capable of producing about 1,000 barrels of oil per day, will create jobs and get them out of criminality.                                          

This plan is commendable. Government should quickly come out with its details. We suggest that these should include policy guidelines for the operators of modular refineries, who must be given licences for a specified period, subject to renewal. This is essential for stability in the economy.

If these measures are carefully laid out and implemented, the modular entities should enhance institutional capability and fill the gap in the training of indigenous capacity in process and equipment design, fabrication, installation and operation of gas, refining and petrochemical plants. Moreover, environmental pollution can be better controlled.  

Above all, the advantages of size, cost differential, flexibility and less dependence on importation of refined crude oil, are such that government should make the modular refineries come on stream as soon as possible. They will yield economic benefits, empower the disenfranchised Niger Delta people and help to restore peace in the region.

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